Taylor Swift Didn’t Do It Alone: 13 Film Directors Who Dabbled in Music Videos

Taylor Swift Didn’t Do It Alone: 13 Film Directors Who Dabbled in Music Videos
Taylor Swift Didn’t Do It Alone: 13 Film Directors Who Dabbled Music Videos

With the psychological thriller “One Hour Photo” and the heartbreaking adaptation of “Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek has proven himself a capable film director. But, in addition to his film work, the director, like many, has dabbled in directing music videos for uber-talented artists. His latest effort, which was released earlier this week, is a controversial video for Taylor Swift’s latest single “Shake It Off.” Opinions aside, we’ve decided to compile a list of 13 directors who are also known for some of their fantastic videos. 

Paul Thomas Anderson

“Across the Universe” – Fiona Apple 

Before Paul Thomas Anderson settled down with Maya Rudolph, he had a long relationship with singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. Their romance also made way for a professional collaboration when Anderson ended up directing a couple of music videos for the talented rocker. Of all their wonderful videos, the one featuring Apple’s cover of The Beatles “Across the Universe” is a standout. Apple covered the song for the 1998 film “Pleasantville” and the stunning black and white video features a close-up of the singer belting out the classic tune while a background of men dismantle everything in sight. It’s fun and reminds us of Adam Sandler in Anderson’s own “Punch Drunk Love.” 

Drew Barrymore

“Our Deal” – Best Coast

Following her surprisingly good directorial feature debut “Whip It,” Drew Barrymore found herself with another, albeit smaller directing gig: a music video. Barrymore used her talents to create a memorable video for indie rock band Best Coast’s single “Our Deal.” The video, which features performances by young actresses Chloe Grace Moretz, Miranda Cosgrove and a little-known Shailene Woodley, follows a scandalous romance between a gang member (Moretz) and a boy (Tyler Posey) from a rival group. It’s a modern and unique take on forbidden love, and Barrymore’s girlish touch makes it a worthwhile watch. The low-fi ballad is pretty catchy, too. 

Sofia Coppola

“I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” – The White Stripes

Everyone knows that one of the major perks of a Sofia Coppola film is having the opportunity to listen to the wonderful soundtracks she puts together. Fortunately, the director, who happens to be married to lead singer of the French band “Phoenix,” doesn’t stop there. She’s also directed a couple of music videos, most memorably “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by The White Stripes. Coppola, who worked as a model in her younger years, enlisted the help of Kate Moss for the black and white video that features the supermodel nearly naked on a stripper pole. It’s not as trashy as it sounds and provides the perfect backdrop for the rock tune. Note: Coppola clearly has a thing for the poles seeing as she created a stripper scene for the opening moments of her 2010 drama “Somewhere.” 

Anton Corbijn

“Heart-Shaped Box” – Nirvana

Before he directed films such as “The American” and this year’s “A Most Wanted Man,” Anton Corbijn was a famed music photographer who took shots of Joy Division, David Bowie, Tom Waits and Coldplay — just to name a few. But the supremely talented Dutch director has also dabbled in the music video world and, in a bit over three decades, has directed tons of videos including Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” While we’re inclined to pick this one for nostalgia’s sake, it just happens to be surreal, bizarre, sacrilegious and, mostly importantly, it shows Kurt Cobain giving some crazy eyes. 

David Fincher 

“Vogue” – Madonna

It’s hard to believe that David Fincher, director of films such as “Zodiac,” “Fight Club” and “The Girl with the DragonTattoo” would be behind something as poppy as Madonna’s now-classic “Vogue.” Nevertheless, the collaboration is a match made in heaven with the now-iconic video giving us a look at different side of the director. Shot in black and white, the video has a ’20s and ’30s feel to it and, perhaps more than anything, pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s hard not to think of Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake or Marlene Dietrich when you see Madonna doing her thing. Most recently, Fincher directed the music video for Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie.” 

Jonathan Glazer

“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – Radiohead

Jonathan Glazer has directed three feature films, his most recent being the stunning “Under the Skin” with Scarlett Johansson. But, about five years before he ventured into the world of film, he started his career off as a successful director of music videos. He directed for bands such as Massive Attack and Blur, but his big break — and perhaps one of his greater videos — came when he worked on “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” a single off Radiohead’s second studio album “The Bends.” Filmed over two nights, Glazer took the band to a desert outside of Los Angeles where he captured, in black and white, a series of odd yet moving visuals. Glazer and Radiohead would again collaborate to make the music video for “Ok Computer” hit “Karma Police.” 

Michel Gondry

“Army of Me” – Björk

If there’s a collaboration people dream about, it would be one shared between Michel Gondry and Björk. The two, who have worked together on a couple of videos, are known for their emphasis on aesthetics, so when you put them together you get something like the “Army of Me” video. Released in 1995 by the Icelandic singer and the “Mood Indigo” director, “Army of Me” features Björk driving a massive vehicle thorough a “Sin City”-like metropolis. The video also features a gorilla-dentist, an ever-growing diamond and a bunch of mirrors. It’s a nightmare of a time, but a spectacle nonetheless.


Jim Jarmusch

“Steady, As She Goes” – The Raconteurs 

Although he doesn’t have as much as experience directing music videos as others on this list, Jim Jarmusch still has a pretty impressive musical resume. In addition to contributing vocals and playing keyboard for No Wave band The Del-Byzanteens, Jarmusch has also directed videos for Tom Waits, The Talking Heads and Neil Young. His simplistic video for Jack White’s side-project “The Raconteurs” is a low-quality endeavor that resembles a crappy sitcom. Nevertheless, it’s an amazing track from a director who clearly loves music. It also inspired a second video, a much more complex effort by Paul Reubens, also known as Pee-wee Herman. 

Spike Jonze

“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys; “The Suburbs” – Arcade Fire

Picking one of Spike Jonze’s music videos was just too difficult. Therefore we decided to include two of his best shorts from two of his most frequent collaborators: hip-hop group Beastie Boys and alternative rock band Arcade Fire. The “Sabotage” video, which dominated MTV when it first aired, is a tribute (and parody) to ’70s crime dramas such as “Starsky and Hutch” and “Hawaii Five-O.” Jonze, who can go from sentimental to funny, gave clever crime names to each of the band members, all of whom played fictional actors. On the other end of the spectrum, Jonze directed the video for Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs,” which was in fact a shortened version of his short film for the band “Scenes from the Suburbs.” It’s a nostalgic, warm video that perfectly captures the essence of suburban teenage-hood. 

David Lynch

“Shot in the Back of the Head” – Moby

Although David Lynch hasn’t made a full feature film since his 2006 mystery “Inland Empire,” that doesn’t mean the auteur isn’t at work. He’s appeared on “Louie,” has started his own clothing line and also had the time to direct some music videos. Last year he shot “Came Back Haunted,” an impressive video for Nine Inch Nails. But, his 2009 animation video for Moby is the one that makes this list. The video, in black and white animation, shows a bunch of scribbled buildings, objects and, in Lynchian fashion, a man who appears to have fallen in love with a woman without a body.

Mark Romanek

“Hurt” – Johnny Cash

Whatever you think about Mark Romanek’s Taylor Swift video, the director, who was behind the beautiful film adaptation of sci-fi novel “Never Let Me Go,” had the chance to work with Johnny Cash. Not many can say that. Romanek directed the video for one of Cash’s last hits, a cover of Nine Inch Nail’s somber “Hurt.” The video features an older, sickly-looking Cash and montages of moments from the singer’s early life. Also apparent are images of distorted fruits and flowers, an obvious symbol for decay. It’s depressing as hell, but at the same time, is a magnificent look at Cash’s life. 

Martin Scorsese 

“Bad” – Michael Jackson

Nobody captures gang life and crime quite like Martin Scorsese. Right after finishing his drama “The Color of Money” and shortly before starting “Goodfellas,” Scorsese directed an 18-minute music video for Michael Jackson’s 1986 hit “Bad.” The video, like most of Jackson’s videos, is famous for its dancing and production values, but it also features a performance by a little known actor named Wesley Snipes. The video below is a shortened version, but you can tell by the outfits and choreography that Scorsese is paying tribute to “West Side Story.” Anyway, Jackson and his leather-wearing gang dance in a subway station, run turnstiles and are as bad as bad can be. It’s a Scorsese vision through and through. 

Wim Wenders 

“Sax and Violins” – Talking Heads

German director Wim Wenders is not exactly known for his foray into music video-directing, but after enlisting the help of David Byrne and the Talking Heads for the soundtrack of his sci-fi film “Until the End of the World,” Wenders ended up directing the music video for the track “Sax and Violins.” The entire video features David Byrne’s talking, singing head, which changes hues and tones and colors throughout the video. Like the film, there’s a futuristic element to the video, one which suits both Byrne and Wenders stylistically. 

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